You are a CPA Now What 2013 Archives

Fall 2013

CPA: a liCense to exPlore Alternatives
By Patrick Chu
I remember the feeling of being a newly minted CPA. I was excited, but also confused, about my future. What path should I take? What if I didn’t want to be an accountant forever?

It’s been almost eight years since I became a CPA, and five years since I left the world of public accounting for wealth management. Although I no longer have the pleasure of burning the midnight oil during tax season, earning my CPA license was one of the most impactful steps I’ve taken to further my professional career. Many people associate having a CPA license with being a tax guru or an auditor; that couldn’t be further from the truth. With a CPA license, you have a license to try new opportunities, industries and even pursue other business functions and disciplines.

With a degree in business and finance, my first job out of college was as a financial analyst. My work involved a lot of number crunching for various pieces of personal financial plans: investments, cash flow illustrations and income tax projections. Thirsty for more taxes, I moved on to public accounting, joining a group that worked with corporate executives and private companies in financial planning from the tax side.

Eventually, I chose to leave accounting and get an MBA. Leveraging the technical abilities and systematic problem-solving experience from the two worlds, I re-entered wealth management. After starting a firm more than a year ago, both my business partner and I have found our CPA licenses and tax backgrounds to be one our greatest differentiators. Most wealth advisers have a limited understanding of individual income taxes, and are unfamiliar with business taxes. We no longer prepare tax returns, but we now have to ability to save people thousands (sometimes millions) of dollars with proper income tax and estate planning, and coordination of investments.

From instilling client trust to utilizing technical capabilities, I believe having a CPA license is one of the most powerful tools and differentiators a business professional can have. In the wealth management industry, it brings an extra level of client confidence and an expectation to receive high-quality work. While CPAs are some of the most trusted professionals, they are also some of the most well-rounded professionals.

Be proud of your CPA license, and don’t let yourself be pigeonholed. Whether you are content with your career path or looking down the road for something different, your CPA license is a fantastic addition to your toolbox. Don’t let it be your last.
Patrick Chu, CPA, CFP is a wealth adviser and co-founder of marrick wealth.

Summer 2013

Something to Consider While Continuing Down Your Profession’s Path
By Amber Setter
When one first begins their accounting career, one of the most highly regarded skills is technical competency. Those who demonstrate a mastery of core accounting principles rise to the top. They seem to effortlessly pass the Uniform CPA Exam and are often perceived as special individuals who are selected to work on the most interesting projects. Yet, as important as technical skills are, there’s more to a prosperous career in accounting.

As one moves up the ranks and takes on greater responsibilities, such as supervising others or leading a team, CPAs will need to utilize their non-technical skills. Sadly, what I have seen in my career all too often is CPAs who place too much emphasis on technical expertise to the detriment of honing their non-technical skills. Can you imagine what it would look like to see a person who only lifted really heavy weights on one side of their body? One strong side and the other side with atrophied muscles doesn’t make for a pretty picture, yet this is a common paradigm in the accounting profession.

So what softer skills should a CPA polish? I recommend leadership of both self and others.

Leadership of one’s self shows up as being clear about who you are and where you are going. What are your greatest strengths? Are you playing to your strengths in your role or should you make a shift? Where are you headed? Is the path that you are on in service of where you want to be in the next two, five or 10 years?

Leading others is about building trust, connecting with others and being able to influence teams. Look for what you can take on to gain the trust of others on your team. Do you do what you say you will do? If not, what gets in the way? How might you strengthen relationships with your colleagues to enhance your connections?

Placing equal focus on the development of your technical and non-technical skills is critical to becoming a balanced and successful leader. The work that one takes on to expand their leadership capacity will pay off huge dividends throughout your entire career. What can you take on to start building those leadership muscles today?
Amber Setter, CPA is an ICF Associate Certified Coach.

Winter 2013

What Skill to Develop Next?
By Beth Attebery, CPA
As I studied for hundreds of hours for the CPA exams, I thought, “I am never taking another exam … ever.” Now that the exams are behind me, I find myself wondering, “What can I sign up for now?” As a newly licensed CPA, I feel like it’s expected that I suddenly know everything about tax law. I think most young CPAs feel this way. The truth is that no one will ever know everything, but that should not stop us from building our credentials. The question on my mind is what skill to develop next.

A master’s degree in taxation feels like a natural next step. When I review bios of partners in firms, the designations behind their names do not stop at CPA. Almost all partners have either the MST or MSA designation as well, and these are often accompanied by MBA, ABV, CFE, CFF—the list goes on. So, is my next step to enroll in a masters program or do I focus on another, soft skill, that I feel is equally if not more important than having strong tax and accounting skills? I’m talking about developing sales skills.

When speaking with partners in firms, the question always arises: How big is your book of business? How many clients have you brought into the firm? If you don’t have clients to provide services to, do the strength of your technical skills matter as much? Should I join Toastmasters, join the local chamber of commerce, get involved in my college alumni association or become more active with CalCPA? I’ve heard about CPAs participating in all of these activities.

For me and other young professionals I think the answer is to go after both skill sets. If we want to be successful and truly competitive in our field, it’s necessary to have developed both technical and social skills.
Beth Attebery, CPA is a tax manager for Henry C. Levy & Co., CPAs & Consultants.